Halloween-O-Meter: Let the Right One In
Halloween-O-Meter: Let the Right One In (2008)
Let the Right One In (or Låt den rätte komma in) is a horror/drama from thriller director Tomas Alfredson. The film follows Oskar, a young boy who discovers that his neighbor, a young girl named Elie, is vampire. The film was based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who wrote the screenplay for both this film and its 2010 remake Let Me In by Matt Reeves. While the Swedish film went generally unnoticed at the worldwide box office, it did receive a BAFTA nomination for Foreign Film, along with plenty of critical acclaim.
We started these Halloween-O-Meter reviews to look at scary or spooky films to determine their watchability (totally a word) for the Halloween season. I feel like the last few reviews I personally have worked on veered too far away from that. So now I want to look at a really great film and judge just how well it works alone, and as a Halloween flick! (Yes you have to read. Yes I know there is a remake, but maybe watch the probably superior film?)
I was surprised when I saw that horror was not one of the three listed genres on the film’s IMDb page, as it is genuinely frightening. Let the Right One In takes a note from the best horror film, not holding back. It doesn’t shy from horrifying moments, and it never quick-cuts away after a loud sheik from the score. Instead it simply strands the audience unable to intervene and unable to look away. Even when it is a bit more minimal, the use of perspective stays strong, often keeping the audience with a similar helpless feeling even if we CAN’T see what is happening!
This quality of filmmaking would not be the same without one of my current favorite cinematographers Hoyte Van Hoytema. Hoytema’s sharp eye for framing might be second to none right now (being the reason I loved the work on 2019’s Ad Astra so much!) Whether the film utilizes smart framing as you’d find in classic horror from Polanski, or a few more modern styles when it comes to wide shots or the use of focus- there isn’t a single dull frame in this beautiful movie!
Okay I thought I was going to give the film one rating and now I’m changing my mind. So another considerably strong aspect of the film is the treatment of the characters. Oskar and Eli’s relationship is complex in the most compellingly thematic way possible. Each of them are dealing with their own character arcs as they deal with the challenges of simply being young. Oskar is dealing with bullying and feeling left out of the world, while Eli is very literally felling outcast by that same world. By the end the film strikes a perfect balance when it comes to the emotional story it is telling, and that would not be possible without both a strong screenplay and the amazing performances from Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson!
Okay for all its arthouse glamour, the film is a slow-burn drama to a curious conclusion. It’s true, the horror is great! It also constitutes maybe a third of the film. The rest doubles-down on the drama, which as I said it really great! But if you go into the film expecting a vampire movie, well you might be disappointed. However I would argue that The Lost Boys (1987) is very much in the same vein, offering the horror genre as a way to tell a story about struggling youth.
Let the Right One In is an incredible watch for anyone looking to expand their view of what a horror film can be. The film manages to be both scary and surprisingly touching, as the drama and terror keep each other in check. The film does lean towards the drama more, and thus feel a little slow at times. However that doesn’t keep it from being any less interesting, as the masterful cinematography, sharp colors, and editing (or occasionally lack of) are all top notch! It is a truly great film that I think any arthouse horror fan should check out! I would have given this film a 7/10 if it didn’t look so good, but gosh darn it it’s one beautiful movie! 8/10. I will also have a few extra stills below of my 10 Favorite Shots from the film! (Well the ones without spoilers anyway…)
Now the real question is: Is this a good watch for Halloween? Well, no not really. Sure if you are going all-in on vampire films it works well! Or if you are like us and enjoy sitting up in awe of the cinematography, hey it’s a fun film for cinephiles! But unless your couple’s costume is going to be a pale blond kid with a knife and a dark haired girl covered in blood, than the heavy drama certainly outweighs the potential enjoyment. Simply put, it is a great film, but not exactly a fun OR immensely thrilling one. On our Halloween-O-Meter, I think I can only give this one 2 Scary Pumpkins out of 5.
So Let the Right One In? Have you seen it? What do you think? And do you like the remake as much or more? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review and you want to read more like it, let us know what else we should rank on the Halloween-O-Meter!
-review by Ryan Prince